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OXNARD, Calif.— from www.vcstar.com – A science teacher fired for her past involvement in pornographic films will continue to fight for her job at the Oxnard School District.
Stacie Halas and her attorney have filed an appeal to the Ventura County Superior Court, seeking a reversal to an administrative law ruling made last month that upheld the firing.
Halas’ attorney Richard Schwab said the fact that his client is being judged on her past profession brings up very significant legal issues.
“I think we have to look at what is the purpose of a hearing. Is it to look at your past and judge you?” Schwab said. “If that’s the case, the lessons we teach our children are wasted. We are teaching our children that if you engage in a behavior, even if it’s not unlawful, you may be put in a position where you may not follow your dreams. You cannot dig yourself out of a mistake.”
Halas, 32, was involved in the adult film industry during a nine-month period before her employment with the Oxnard district. The former Haydock Intermediate School teacher told an administrative law judge that she was desperate for money when she agreed to star in the X-rated films in 2005.
School officials discovered Halas’ past when students began talking about and viewing the pornographic material of their teacher. The school board voted to fire Halas last April and Halas appealed the firing to an administrative law judge. The judge, along with two educators who make up the Commission on Professional Competence, ruled that the district had the right to fire Halas.
In a 46-page ruling written by Administrative Law Judge Julie Cabos-Owen, Halas was accused of repeatedly lying about her roles in pornography and was deemed unfit to teach. Cabos-Owen had doubts that Halas was desperate for money and wondered why she did not file for bankruptcy or apply for a loan.
Schwab said that assessment was “unfair” and the commission “chastised” Halas about her financial situation.
“(Halas) is credible and honest,” Schwab said. “But one has to consider the circumstances of being placed in a hearing on things that occurred some years ago.”
Schwab stressed that Halas’ performance as a teacher met or exceeded the school’s expectations and that she has “rehabilitated,” in the sense that she is no longer involved in pornography.
While the hearing presided by Judge Cabos-Owen took place in an administrative law setting, the appeal to the superior court will be done in a judicial setting. A superior court judge will consider the evidence, hear oral arguments and make a decision independent of Cabos-Owen’s ruling, said Schwab.
Oxnard Superintendent Jeff Chancer said the latest appeal is not completely unexpected.
“From reading the judge and the panel’s review, it seemed to me that the language was pretty strong in favor of the district,” Chancer said. “I guess I’m a little surprised. But I’m not in Ms. Halas’ shoes, I don’t know what went behind the decision.”
Halas was placed on paid leave when school officials first learned about her porn movies last March. Halas, who earned an annual salary of $79,000 including medical and other benefits, was taken off payroll on Feb. 13 and will remain off payroll despite the latest appeal.
Schwab said Halas will not be giving any statements to the media at this time.
“I wouldn’t say she’s depressed but she’s obviously concerned. She would like to return to her position as a teacher in the Oxnard School District and continue to perform in a positive manner,” Schwab said. “We are anxious and hopeful that this matter will be resolved in a positive manner and uphold the principles that are fundamental to this country.”